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Findings from around the Internet.


“will never be inconvenient or angry or vocal”

September 8, 2015


(An aside: how many of us Asian women writers have been mistaken for each other at literary events? Raise your hand if you didn’t point out the mistake just to save the dignity of the other person/thrust yourself into denial over this event occuring at all! Raise your other hand if you made a beeline for the wine right after!)

I suppose it could be that easy to wear one of us like a mask, as long as all the tedious aspects of our identities and politics were stripped away. Cut out the background, the body, the pain, and the pleasure that all come with being human and you have the perfect cipher. Yi-Fen’s captor has achieved the ultimate in separating the political from the personal, which happens to be the poetic endgame that he professed in a letter to Poetry in 2010. In reducing a racialized identity to a mere alias, he seems to be making a subtextual argument for racial colorblindness: we are all humans under our cultural baggage, right? But if that were true, why would he even think to use Yi-Fen to bolster his career? How cynical can you get?

Read more | “Yi-Fen Chou and the Man Who Wore Her” | Soleil Ho | Weird Sister


“rebellions in the last years have jumped leaps and bounds past the established ideas”

August 31, 2015

The self-organization within various POC-led rebellions in the last years have jumped leaps and bounds past the established ideas about what it means to resist race and victimization. People have found each other in unusual ways that are not the product of some kind of organizer meeting. They have resisted any idea, whether from the police or the liberal-left that they are complacent, passive. This self-organization not only scares police (who are quickly gearing up to prepare for future insurrections), but also many of those who talk of themselves as leaders, activists or grassroots political organizers in the realm of race politics.

The dynamic has challenged the common view that people are merely downtrodden and need a leader to galvanize them, that they are afraid to resist unless they feel safe. People have taken to attacking the institutions that seek to make them into just another “black body” to be protested and hash-tagged for when found dead by activists. They’ve confronted white power which makes them socially dead even when physically alive and attacked the concrete manifestations of capitalism and the police, refusing pleas to go home by both police and political managers.

Read More | “8.19.15: The police kill again in St. Louis. Some accounts and thoughts on what happened in response” | Anti-State STL


“I refuse to believe that the system that we’re in is the only option that we have.”

August 13, 2015

I don’t have faith in politicians. I don’t have faith in the electoral process. It’s well documented that that doesn’t work for us. No matter who you are. So my gaze is not toward politicians and getting them to do something in particular. I think they will change what they do based off of what I do, but that’s not my center. My center is using electoral politics as a platform but also agitating so much that people continue to question the system they’re in as they’re doing it, and that we start to dismantle it. Because I refuse to believe that the system that we’re in is the only option that we have. And so we hear people saying — Bernie supporters — “Well, he’s your best option.” It’s like, If he’s our best option then I’m burning this down. I think it’s literally blowing up — this is why the respectability thing is so important — is that you blow it up so big, and so un-respectably, that you can show people the possibilities outside of the system that they’re stuck in. And so that’s why I do agitation work.

So I’m not for any politician. But I’m definitely for anything that pulls people further left, anything that gets people asking more questions, and gets us closer to actually dismantling the system that has never, ever, ever, ever done anything for black people and never will. So I’m really trying to see my people get free by any means possible.

Listen | “Marissa Janae Johnson Speaks: #BLM, Sanders & White Progressives™” | Marissa Janae Johnson interviewed by Elon James White and Imani Gandy | This Week in Blackness


“I am not writing reviews for The New Inquiry”

July 22, 2015

Screenshot 2015-07-22 at 12.01.11 PM

I am not writing “Leaving the Atocha Station” by Anne Boyer and certainly not writing “Nadja” by Anne Boyer though would like to write “Debt” by Anne Boyer though am not writing also “The German Ideology” by Anne Boyer and not writing a screenplay called “Sparticists.”

I am not writing an account of myself more miserable than Rousseau. I am not writing an account of myself more innocent than Blake.

I am not writing epic poetry although I like what Milton said about lyric poets drinking wine while epic poets should drink water from a wooden bowl. I would like to drink wine from a wooden bowl or to drink water from an emptied bottle of wine.

I am not writing a book about shopping, which is a woman shopping. I am not writing accounts of dreams, not my own or anyone else’s. I am not writing historical re-enactments of any durational literature.

Read More | “Not Writing” | Anne Boyer | Bookforum


“Here is the reason why workers feel so insecure, today”

June 15, 2015


To what extent do conditions of work and struggle, today, actually mirror those of the Gilded Age? Then, as now, rates of unionization were low and limited to skilled workers. With notable exceptions like the IWW, unions generally ignored the semi-skilled and unskilled. Meanwhile, there was no safety net for workers thrown out of work. These points form the basis of Post’s argument that the present is essentially like the past. In reality, US labor market conditions today are little like they were in the decades before World War I – and not only because in 1880, 50 percent of the labor force was still in agriculture. Major differences between the present and the past can easily be demonstrated by looking at real-wage trends for unskilled workers.

Between 1880 and 1913, unskilled workers’ real wages rose by 1.5 percent per year. Recall that for production and nonsupervisory workers, real compensation was stagnant between 1974 and 2007. How was it possible for unskilled workers’ wages to rise so quickly, back then, in spite of an absence of unions and social protections? One reason is that labor markets were tight: this was an era of labor under-supply in the US. Many whites still had access to land. Meanwhile, indigenous populations had mostly been eradicated. Racist factory-owners in the North were loath to attract Black sharecroppers from the South, so, as the economy boomed, huge numbers of immigrants were pulled in from Europe. Post argues that “in the 1890s, the vast majority of working people lived an incredibly precarious existence,” but that was much less true in the US than it was in Europe. Immigrants came to the US precisely to escape much higher levels of precarity. Around the turn of the century, this country saw one of the largest mass migrations in history, yet real wages for unskilled workers continued to rise.

On this basis, one argue that, in certain limited respects, the liberal period, 1880-1913, was more like the age of managed capitalism, 1949-73, than it is like the present. In the former two periods, US labor markets were tight and real wage growth was strong; today, the labor market is slack and wage growth has stagnated. This is not even to mention other major differences between the late 1800s, when workers’ struggle was still largely defined by the fight to increase workers’ control over production, and the present, when workers’ loss of control has been pushed to the extreme for all but a tiny minority of high-tech engineers. Nor is it to mention that back then, the industrial workforce was still expanding, as compared to today, when it is shrinking.

Read More | “Precarity Rising” | Aaron Benanav | Viewpoints